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Turkey has now embarked on a long journey that will entail further economic and political reforms and hasten the process of convergence with the developed economies of Europe

This supplement is timely. Last October, the European Union made the historic decision to open negotiations with Turkey on its future membership. Earlier this month in Luxembourg the first chapter of those negotiations was successfully closed. Turkey has now embarked on a long journey that will entail further economic and political reforms and hasten the process of convergence with the developed economies of Europe.

Much remains to do before accession on the political, economic and technical levels, and there are difficult challenges ahead for Turkey, including on human rights. But there is a challenge for the governments of Europe too. Many Europeans worry that the EU simply cannot take in - or afford - a country the size of Turkey. We need to be able to show that these fears are misplaced.

Turkey's economy, bolstered by recent reforms, is doing well. While it is true that the country's financial markets have been badly affected by global volatility in recent weeks, the fundamentals remain in good shape.

The process of joining the EU is likely to bring greater benefits still as higher standards of governance kick in. And while Turkey already has good access to European markets through the customs union, accession would bring them fully into the internal market.

That's good for Turkey. But it is good for the rest of Europe too: a large and growing consumer market, an expanding demand for banking and insurance services, a more stable and transparent environment for investment. When the EU has enlarged in the past - the huge enlargement in 2004 being no exception - there has been a positive impact on the economy of existing member states. Turkey will be the same.

Indeed, we in this country are already seeing some of the benefits of a growing Turkey. British companies such as Vodafone, BP, Tesco, HSBC and Shell are doing well there. Two million British tourists visit every year. And just as we have seen skilled workers from Eastern Europe supporting our economy, we can expect the same if and when Turkey joins. In fact, 10 years from now, when the population of Western Europe has aged further, Turkey's young, educated population will be even more welcome.

Some reports suggest this migrant labour will add between 0.5% and 0.7% to the GDP of Western European countries. Compare that to the estimates - all less than 0.2% - of the amount of the EU's total GDP which would go as a net subsidy to Turkey.

In short, the greatest threat the people of Europe face comes not from opening our doors to a vibrant, dynamic economy like Turkey's, but from closing in on ourselves and allowing Europe to stagnate in the face of global competition.

Then there is the question of stability and security. Again, the result of Turkish accession would be overwhelmingly positive. Make a list of the things that worry people in this country - crime, drugs, terrorism, illegal immigration. Because of its geographical position, Turkey plays a pivotal role in our efforts to deal with all of these. As political and legal reforms kick in, Turkey's capacity to deal with these will only increase - as will the level of our co-operation.

And having Turkey in the EU will not only ensure that a big emerging economy is taking the right steps to tackle climate change; its emerging status as a transit hub for oil and gas supplies will help us secure the energy we need to keep our businesses running and our homes warm.

That's the pragmatic agenda - the very practical reasons why women and men in Britain would be better off if Turkey were to join the EU. But there is a wider imperative. For more than a thousand years the boundaries between Europe and Asia have principally been decided by bloodshed and conflict. Religion has often etched the dividing line. Welcoming Turkey, with its large Muslim population, shows that what binds modern Europe together is a set of fundamental rights and freedoms combined with a common purpose; regardless of race or religion.

This is a powerful message not only to the people of other faiths who live in neighbouring countries, but also to the millions who already live within the borders of the European Union. That's why all of us in Europe should welcome the EU's ever-closer relationship with a modern, thriving Turkey.

Margaret Beckett, 
Foreign secretary of UK

Turkey Revisited Guardian

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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Last modified: 2013-12-15
 
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